Wednesday, August 10, 2022

How 'Tuck Comin'' has become a war cry for the Spartan faithful

November 8, 2021
<p>Head Coach Mel Tucker gives thumbs up to Spartan fans after the Spartans raced back from a 16-point deficit to beat the Wolverines on Oct. 30, 2021.</p>

Head Coach Mel Tucker gives thumbs up to Spartan fans after the Spartans raced back from a 16-point deficit to beat the Wolverines on Oct. 30, 2021.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

In just his second year with the program, Michigan State football’s Head Coach Mel Tucker has a special connection with the fans.

"Tuck Comin'" has become the battle cry of Spartan fans, students and alumni. 

When ESPN’s College Gameday came to visit East Lansing, the phrase was plastered on dozens of signs. It is on Twitter, on hats and on sweatshirts. Michigan State football’s social media team has even used the phrase a few times.

At this point, it is a bonafide movement. 

“I don’t mind it, I think it’s fun,” Tucker said. “It’s a great way to engage with our fans — we have great fans, the best fans in the country.”

Last season was Tucker’s first at Michigan State. He took the helm of the program in February of 2020 — just a month later, COVID-19 shut down the world. His first season as head coach was rather tumultuous. After kicking off his tenure with a loss to Rutgers, Tucker managed to follow it up with a signature win against Michigan. There would just be one more win that year, albeit against a top ten Northwestern team, as they limped across the finish line with a 2-5 record. 

This year, Tucker and the team have followed a very different trajectory. Michigan State has defied all expectations, finding themselves ranked third in the nation by the College Football Playoff Committee with an undefeated record (including Tucker’s second straight win against Michigan), thanks in large part to a glut of talented transfers.

Tucker and the team’s improbable worst-to-first performance has played a part in endearing the coach to the student base.

“He was an underdog this year — it was easy to fall in love with this team,” political science junior Spencer Woodruff said. 

As the wins pile up and MSU continues to climb the ranks, Tucker’s profile has increased significantly - just adding gasoline to the Tuck Comin’ fire. His rise to national relevance in the college football world has turned the heads of leaders at premier programs around the country. Rumors swirled throughout October as Tucker’s name was dropped in relation to the LSU head coaching vacancy.

However, the rumors have not put a damper on the hype around Tucker on campus.

“Ever since getting on campus, I’ve heard ‘Tuck comin’,” business preference freshman Nolan Woodruff said. “Just around campus, kinda just the buzz.”

When ex-Head Coach Mark Dantonio took MSU to three Big Ten Title games in five years, won the Rose Bowl and earned a College Football Playoff berth, there were no “Dantonio Comin’” shirts, hats and tweets. The Spartan faithful loved their coach — there is no doubt about that —but the connection between the fans and the new coach is different.

Winning certainly plays a key role in how quickly Tuck Comin’ has taken off, but the culture being instilled by the coach and his staff is just as important.

“He’s more of a players coach,” business preference freshman Hayden Hiller said. “He likes embracing the crowds, with the Tuck Comin' stuff and pack the woodshed — embracing the fans.”

Tucker has installed a series of changes as part of the remodeling of the program. He has given Spartan Stadium a new moniker: the “Woodshed.” After his quote about dragging Miami into the “deep waters” made ripples across the fanbase, the program gave the student section its own title: “the Deep End.”

Small tweaks to the gameday experience such as axing Thunderstruck and replacing it with Swag Surfin' have also occurred. The changes are not extensive, but they are a few of the steps the program is taking externally to appeal to the students and fans and instill a new atmosphere.

Tucker is changing the culture, winning games and appealing to fans as Michigan State's head coach. With just four games left on the regular-season slate for Michigan State, the college football season is winding down — but it is hard to imagine that the Tuck Comin' movement is slowing down anytime soon.

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